The Southern Refugee Legal Aid Network (SRLAN) began in 2007 at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya. It was born out of a common understanding amongst its members that refugees are people with rights enshrined in international human rights and refugee law, but whose rights are regularly violated. These violations can be committed by the police, national courts, government officials or non-governmental organisations, amongst others.
The human suffering refugees endure often results from restrictions on their autonomy as human beings, and thus must be addressed by ensuring their ability to exercise basic rights. This is particularly challenging in the global South, where judicial institutions to address rights violations are less developed and/or accessible. To remedy this, organisations are increasingly conducting rights-based advocacy for refugees in the global South, through pro bono legal aid and/or research and policy advocacy. These organisations are bound by a common desire to foster respect for the rights of refugees in the global South.
These organisations are often unique in their countries and isolated from each other internationally. While they face common challenges, they have not had sufficient opportunities to learn from each other’s experiences. Slowly and informally, however, rights-based refugee organisations have been increasing their information sharing and coordinated advocacy. The SRLAN was thus initiated to formalise such cooperation, with a view to channelling disparate refugee rights organisations into a movement for refugee rights in the global south. At the time of inception, the SRLAN concluded the Nairobi Code, which all members agreed to uphold. The Nairobi Code has since been adopted by legal practitioners and legal aid organisations around the world as the ethical standard by which legal providers in refugee status determination and other legal services should abide.
The SRLAN continues to develop and invites new members from the refugee legal aid world to share their experiences and expertise.
The International Refugee Rights Initiative (formerly Fahamu Refugee Programme) is the Secretariat for the Southern Refugee Legal Aid Network.
Please follow us on Twitter at @srlan.